St. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Every ball player experiences highs and lows.
For Owen Spiwak, one such low has come about just before the start of spring training in Florida.
One of Mississauga’s most accomplished baseball players Spiwak, a catcher for the Ontario Blue Jays, was selected for the first time to join the National Canadian Junior Baseball team. Spring training began on Monday, but Spiwak has had to sit this one out.
Last week, Spiwak sustained an injury during a pre-game warm-up and has been sidelined with a broken foot since. As a result, he has been unable to participate fully in many of the team’s practices.
But Spiwak is not discouraged. Doctors have ordered him to wear a foot brace for a couple weeks as a precautionary measure, but everyone is confidant that he will be healthy and ready to play in Team Canada’s first game on April 12 in Orlando.
“Every day it’s been progressively getting better a lot,” said Spiwak. For now he is concentrating on rehabilitating his injury and focusing on upper body workouts.
Spiwak’s biggest fan, his father Mike, is also certain that Owen will be back in action soon. But he does appreciate the importance of precautionary measures to assure no further damage is done and encourages Owen to fully recover before recommencing.
“It’s baseball. You have your ups-and-downs, you’ll hit your slums every once in a while,” said the elder Spiwak. “You’re going to have peaks and valleys your whole life. Right now, he’s in the valley, he broke his foot, there’s nothing he can do about it. You’ve got to forget about it, put that aside, work hard, and good things will come.”
Owen is accustomed to working hard and punching above his weight. As an example, Ontario Blue Jays coach Dan Bleiwas called him up to the under-18 roster when Owen was only 15, the youngest player on the team, due largely in part to his physical and mental maturity.
“He was ready,” said Bleiwas. “It’s biological, not chronological, age.”
Spiwak’s game maturity has given him a competitive edge and significant recognition.
“He always played a year [above],” explained his father. “So he always had kids older than him and at a higher level, which I think really helped him a lot. They were mature, that much bigger, and he had to bring his game up, and he always did.”
Spiwak was also of the lucky ones invited to the Baseball Canada Mizuno Junior Elite Camp at the Rogers Centre for the last two years, where he got the chance to meet Toronto Blue Jays superstars Brett Lawrie and JP Arencibia.
The experience of playing on the Rogers Centre was fantastic, an up-close taste of what the professional level is like. And coach Bleiwas believes in Spiwak’s goal of someday making it into professional baseball.
“He’s got the physical ability and tools to make it pro,” said Bleiwas.
Part of the privilege of playing for a team such as the OBJs is the maintenance of school grades, said OBJ coach Bleiwas, who keeps a close watch on his players’ attendance and academic standings. This means a lot of homework on the road and keeping up with schoolwork at the same time.
“It’s difficult sometimes,” says Spiwak, “but I wouldn’t have it a different way.”